Rocks painted by local artists are being hidden around West Hartford every day during the month of December, and if you’re lucky enough to find one – ‘Finders Keepers’!
By Ronni Newton
There’s a treasure hunt called “Finders Keepers” taking place in West Hartford this month, and it’s all about fun and spreading art around town.
The clues started appearing on Monday, Dec. 1, on the Facebook page of the WeHa Artists Emporium, with messages like: “FINDERS KEEPERS Clue #2 This rock looks great near barrels and crates. #WeHaArtFindersKeepers.” That clue was for a rock that J.C. (Julie) Phillipps had hidden near Crate & Barrel. Four others were hidden in Blue Back Square on Monday, and all were found.
On Dec. 2, five rocks were hidden by Phillipps in Elizabeth Park, and the hunt was on again. Wednesday’s clues came in video form, filmed as artist Stefanie Marco Lantz hid each rock somewhere in West Hartford. The clues were posted every few hours on the group’s Facebook page.
“I’m just an artist; I don’t do a lot of marketing,” said Phillipps, an artist and children’s book author who came up with the idea of the treasure hunt after visiting Block Island last summer when the “Glass Float Project” was taking place. Artist Elben Horton had created 100 glass floats and hidden them around Block Island. “I was desperate to find one,” said Phillipps, but she was just there for a day and wasn’t successful.
Marco Lantz, along with Phillipps and several others, formed the WeHa Artists’ Emporium in September, and the group was looking for ways to increase awareness of the online art gallery. Lantz started a Facebook page, but organizers still wanted more exposure, and didn’t have much money to spend.
“I said let’s paint some rocks and hide them throughout town. I have plenty of rocks,” Phillipps said. The group put the word out, and donations of painted rocks poured in. Phillipps has painted dozens herself, and has been adding a few more to the stash when she has extra time. Right now there are 115 rocks, and four or five will be hidden each day throughout December. In addition to Phillipps, rock artists include Stefanie Marco Lantz, Thea Wilcox Ciciotte, Angela Shenk, Hannah Dunnack Jackson, Miracle Balsitis, Kimberly Heil, Laura Marks, and Phyllis Meredith.
“I’m just having so much fun! The fact that people want to find them and then keep them is really keeping us fueled,” Phillipps said.
Clues were relatively easy to decipher on the first few days and so far all rocks have been found, but organizers said they will get harder as the month goes on. The artists will also take turns hiding them and posting the clues on Facebook. Phillipps also posts clues on Twitter (@JCPhillipps) and Instagram (@jcphillipps).
“Right now we’re still beta testing our clues,” Phillipps said. “It’s fun, really fun, to hide them.”
Anyone who finds a rock gets to keep it, although organizers hope that finders will limit themselves to one rock per person. “We want everyone to get a rock if possible,” Phillipps said.
Organizers also hope that the finder will post a photo of their treasure on Facebook along with the hashtag “#WeHaArtFindersKeepers.”
Most of the rocks are merely painted, but a few have additional material attached. Phillipps said that there’s a Medusa head with clay snakes, a flower with a stem and leaves, and a sailor with a knit cap.
“One of my favorites is the house that fell on the wicked witch,” said Phillipps. That one has clay legs protruding from one side. “I’ll save that one for the end,” she said.
The rocks will be hidden each day unless there is a major storm like a Nor’easter, said Phillipps. Some will be hidden in the evening to accommodate people who work during the day, she said.
“We really just want to let West Hartford know that there’s a new group out there, artists who have galleries on Facebook.” The WeHa Artists Emporium is open to all area artists (not just from West Hartford), and anyone interested in posting a gallery can contact Stefanie Marco Lantz through the Facebook page.
In addition to the Finders Keepers treasure hunt, the group is currently holding an art show at Salon Medusa, 12 South Main St., West Hartford, that runs until Jan. 25, 2015. There is an opening reception during the Holiday Stroll on Thursday, Dec. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m.
“I love that we’re spreading art,” Phillipsp said. If this treasure hunt is successful – and it already seems to be a hit – Phillipps said the group may do it again in the summer. “We’re all really excited that it’s going so well.”
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